No. 13 Tennessee seeks payback vs. Arkansas
Arkansas worked Tennessee into a high-scoring affair when the two SEC rivals met to open conference play on Dec. 30. The Razorbacks, behind 33 points from Daryl Macon, bested the Volunteers 95-93 in overtime.
No. 13 Tennessee will be out for revenge Saturday in an SEC Tournament semifinal showdown against the Razorbacks in St. Louis.
The second-seeded Volunteers (24-7) used their trademark defense and a strong effort on the backboards to outlast Mississippi State 62-59 on Friday. Tennessee held the Bulldogs to just 35.7 percent shooting and held a 50-33 rebounding edge.
The Volunteers now have won five in a row.
"We had 22 offensive rebounds, and that was the difference," Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. "We know that our biggest Achilles heel all year has been rebounding. We talked about it a lot, not so much offensively where we want to go get it, but trying to do it on the defensive end."
Sixth-seeded Arkansas knocked off No. 23 Florida 80-73 to advance to the semifinal round. Jaylen Barford scored 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and freshman big man Daniel Gafford had 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Razorbacks (23-10), who almost certainly sealed an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament with the win over the Gators.
Arkansas has won four of five.
"I was proud of our guys and the effort defensively," Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. "In the second half, we came out with a great intensity and focus on defense."
The Razorbacks' win snapped an eight-game losing streak to the Gators. They hadn't beaten Florida since 2013.
Barford said they're not through yet.
"We wanted that win bad," he said. "We want to make it to Sunday."
To accomplish that goal, the Razorbacks are going to need contain Tennessee's one-two punch of Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield. Williams leads the Vols in scoring and is second to Schofield in rebounding. Williams had 10 points and 11 rebounds in the win over Mississippi State. Schofield had 13 points and eight rebounds.
Barnes was dismayed by the amount of turnovers and said the Volunteers were lucky to win.
"We were fortunate," Barnes said on the SEC Network. "I look at the stat sheet, I see 17 turnovers, which is ridiculous to be honest."
Williams and Schofield combined for 28 points and 13 rebounds in the December loss to Arkansas. Macon was the difference in that one for the Razorbacks.
The senior guard made 10 of 18 shots, including five 3-pointers and went 8 of 8 from the foul line, leading the Razorbacks to their fifth straight win over the Volunteers.
Tennessee was picked to finish 13th in the 14-team SEC by the media in the preseason. Behind Williams and Barnes, the Volunteers surprised everyone and earned a share of the SEC regular-season crown with Auburn.
They're safely in the NCAA Tournament, but could upgrade their seed with two more wins in the SEC tournament.
"There's a championship to be won," Barnes said. "This is a great experience for these guys."
Anderson appears to have the Razorbacks headed back to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in the last four seasons.
Updated March 10, 2018